A Different Perspective on Rescue …

"It's All About Attitude" (from the exceptionally talented artist at ArgoStar.com)

I used to say I’d live in a box before I’d give up my animals, years ago before my involvement with rescue as a coordinator.  Over time, my rescue experiences have brought about a different perspective  Honestly … would living in a box be fair to my animals?  If life’s circumstances had deteriorated to the point that I’m living in a box, would I even be able to provide food or medical care for them? Would it be fair to ask them to live such a life?  Am I truly thinking of them … or my own emotional needs?

These questions come roundabout as a result of one of the “ask” forums.  Someone was asking if it would be “okay” for them to return a dog recently adopted from a shelter.  The dog’s age and size were misrepresented or misunderstood at some point in the adoption process and the new owner thought he was getting dog that would grow to be much larger.  The dog was small and was going to stay small … not what the new owner had expected or wanted.

The ensuing comments were vitriolic — to say the least — and expounded on what a bad person the poster was.  My reaction, just the opposite:  return the dog to the shelter so it could have a chance at a life with an owner who wanted a small dog and who could appreciate its many qualities.  Why doom the dog to a lifetime with someone who wasn’t happy with it from the get go?  Do we really think that shaming the owner into keeping the dog is going to change how they feel about the dog?

The flip side is that rescue would like to see every prospective owner carefully consider the impact of adding an animal to their household.  Do they have the time needed for care, training, and socialization?  Do they have the financial means to provide food and medical care?  What breed of dog is most suitable to their lifestyle and home?  Are there small children in the home?  Anyone with allergies?  Are they prepared to commit to the dog for its lifetime?

While it would be great if every dog lived out their life in one home — their forever home — I also understand that there are some circumstances beyond our control.  Surrendering an animal to rescue takes forethought and having the animal’s best interest at heart.  Yes, we still get the occasional lame excuses and, really, I don’t care when considering the big picture.  It is not my place to judge … my responsibility as rescue is to see that the surrendered dog is placed in a home that meets the dog’s needs on every level.  If someone comes up with a seriously lame excuse, then that dog really needs to be some place else!!  If their reasons for surrender are valid or beyond one’s control, then we have to recognize their efforts to do what is best for the dog when they could just drop it off at a shelter and walk away (or worse, yet).

In the end, all that truly matters is the dog and what his or her life is going to be from that point forward. 

And the little dog returned to the shelter?  While the owner was standing in line for the return, she was adopted on the spot.

2 Replies to “A Different Perspective on Rescue …”

  1. Many years ago, when we decided to add a second dog to our family, our vet cautioned me against getting a dog from a resuce group. He said “Those people are crazy, just go to the pound and get a dog”. I protested because I thought it best to adopt a dog that had been in foster care so that more was known about the dog and a better match could be found. He went on to say that caring for many, many dogs, having them find a new home and then turning around to find many more dogs in need, makes ‘rescue people’ a bit crazy to work with. Now that I have been a foster myself for many years, I do understand what he means. I see that it really is easy to get caught up, become ‘radical’ about the cause, and forget about the people behind the pitiful dogs that often need rescuing. I feel, as in most things of life, a balenced position is the best. I find that it isn’t easy but you have made a great point, in that it is usually best for the dog to be re-homed if the family, for whatever reason, doesn’t want the dog anymore. Thanks for the insight from both sides.

  2. It serves no purpose for rescue to berate or chastise an owner. Snarky comments which alienate are not going to change what is happening at that moment, no matter the reason for surrender. Such comments will, however, give the owner a reason to bad mouth rescue! Far better to adopt the mind set that “it is what it is” and work from that point forward. If I can determine that the owner would like to keep the dog except for certain behaviors, discussion ensues regarding what can be done to accomplish that. In the vast majority of cases, however, the dog simply needs to come into rescue.

    I can’t change the owner or reason why they’ve arrived in rescue … but I can change the rest of the dog’s life.

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